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Seatings on the California Zephyr


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#1 Guest_Gracious Traveler_*

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 05:14 PM

I am a veteran of cross-country trains.  I enjoy having my meal at the end of the day -- usually 8PM.  Why, yesterday, out of Chicago, was I offered  the "last seating" at 7PM?  When asked why, the response was; "we need to get to bed"!  What's up?

 



#2 BCL

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 05:22 PM

Sounds to me like they're looking at fewer takers and don't was to spread out how late the reservations will be.

 

It's just an excuse, but it seems reasonable what they're doing.



#3 Bob Dylan

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 06:36 PM

Every Diner Crew operates basically however the LSA wants, irregardless of what Amtraks policies or posted blurbs are.

In this case, as was said, the demand was probably low for the various rez times, hence the 700PM last call.

Don't forget the Diner Crew has to start work preparing for Breakfast in the wee hours and puts in 16-18 Hour days with just a little sleep on LD Routes.

Edited by Bob Dylan, 01 September 2017 - 06:40 PM.

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#4 Guest_Guest_*

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 06:56 PM

O.K.  Understood.  Last trip was on a sold-out train.  One doesn't know how many diners are aboard.  I stand well-informed.  Thank you.



#5 RSG

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 08:11 PM

Often, when starting from the origin point of the train (such as out of CHI), later seatings are reserved for passengers boarding down the line, usually based on sleeper reservations for the stations boarding before diner service cutoff. It's rare for me to get a dinner reservation boarding out of CHI past 7:30, though it sometimes happens in summer.

 

That said, the reason given is one of the dumbest excuses I've ever heard. It basically says "our work schedule takes precedence over the customers' needs". This crew apparently wasn't working on the California Zephyr a couple of years ago when I had an 8 or 8:30 dinner reservation and at 10:30 PM they were still trying to get everyone served.

 

As Bob Dylan noted, the LSAs determine how the diners are run; some are more customer service oriented than others. Still, the reasoning can be explained in a more customer-friendly way. It's not like it was the first run for all of the diner crew, particularly the LSA.



#6 shelzp

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 09:40 PM

I took the California Zephyr a couple of weeks ago and the dining car was awful imho. I eat in my room and they had whited out several items on the menu the room attendant gave me. He mentioned that they were items their kitchen doesn't like to prepare plus they won't make side salads at lunchtime. I don't know what was whited out but it was definitely two or more items. Plus I noticed they didn't take reservations for lunch which doesn't matter to me but there were several loud announcements about 'We're as full as what we consider to be full and would the conductor please come to the dining room immediately to explain the matter'.

I had scheduled myself a little AGR trip that involved LA to Davis (overnight in a motel) and then Davis to Galesburg and turn around there four hours later and go right back westbound to Davis (stay in the motel again) and return to LA the next day. I had never taken the CZ before and the experience was so upsetting with the constant berating PA announcements that I called AGR and asked them to reroute me back to LAX on the SWC. They charged me an additional 9000 points but I was just glad I didn't have to get on that westbound CZ. In fact while I was on the phone talking to AGR the person from the dining room was shouting so loud that the AGR employee commented 'She sounds friendly...' I was aware that the westbound crew probably wouldn't be like the eastbound one but I simply wanted off that route. No intention of taking the CZ again...

#7 Lonestar648

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 10:22 PM

Now the CZ starts breakfast 6:00 AM MT, with the time change, that start is 7:00 CT. so getting to bed because of the early start doesn't hold water.  Just an LSA wanting to serve as few as possible to work fewer hours while getting paid.



#8 the_traveler

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 09:17 PM

Meal times are always based on the time zone the train is in at the start of the meal. If the train enters a new time zone during the meal period, if they took reservations those are based on the time zone when the service began.

That's the reason if on the CL and you have a dinner reservation for 8:30, you will not be called until 9:30 local time. The meal began in CT, but shortly after departure from CHI, the CL enters the Eastern time zone.
Take it easy .......

Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!

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#9 Blackwolf

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 10:20 AM

One would be somewhat hopeful that, with a new CEO that comes from the world of airline consistency, issues such as these will be choked out and solved.  The endless and berating announcements over the PA are a major turn-off and can be downright infuriating at times.  But employees making up their own "Law of the Land" is unacceptable in a customer service environment.  It would not be difficult to have posted hours for service in a dining car, with those hours printed on signage and on menus made professionally by Amtrak.  Any employee/LSA deviating from those hours should have documented reasoning under a specific guideline spelled out in the operating manual.  Additionally, defacing and/or manually altering the service hour signs would come with penalties.

 

Consistent hours of dining car service.

Consistent (high) levels of ALL on-board service.

Efficient use of Dining Car table availability (LSA should be helping serve tables in addition to the SA's, which would allow for all tables to be used.)

No more using Dining Car tables as a desk/storage area for OBS during Dining Car service hours.

Improved and conservative use of the intercom for everyone on board.

 

Not rocket science, and it does not require any fiscal outlay to implement aside from minor printing and training costs.  Amtrak should have a "Secret Shopper" program to help identify problems in the system.  I'm sure there are just a few willing volunteers for such a thing sitting around somewhere...


Amtrak
Capitol Corridor (too many times to count!); Coast Starlight (x21); California Zephyr (x7); Empire Builder (x2); Lake Shore Limited (x4); Maple Leaf (x1); Adirondack (x2); Cascades (x1); Pacific Surfliner (x6); San Joaquin (x8); Capitol Limited (x1); Cardinal (x2); Acela (x1)
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Ocean (x4); Windsor Corridor (x2); The Canadian (x1)


#10 Lonestar648

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 12:31 PM

I agree, Amtrak needs an unbiased group of travelers who would write up their evaluations for the assigned trip.  They would need to purchase their tickets themselves to make them look like normal passengers.  The evaluation would cover every aspect of a trip that a regular passenger  would encounter. Using an iPad or Laptop, they could fill out a form as they progress through the trip.  Noting deficiencies, but also noting excellence.  This would be an easy program to initiate, in fact Amtrak could use an outside PM to set it up and coordinate the actual people.  When we did it in our company, the mystery secret shoppers had special cards they could leave for any employee who went well beyond the excellence standard to call the corp office to special extension (President of the Company) who thanked them  and rewarded them for what they were doing.  This got most people's attention, improving our customer satisfaction rating dramatically.



#11 Tennessee Traveler

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 03:06 PM

The CZ is my favorite LD Train and while I am aware of the many announcements, I co not consider them obtrusive nor annoying.  I have found the CZ dining and sleeping car staff courteous and polite and usually happy but acknowledge each of the 12 or 13 different crews have distinct personalities.  Both breakfast and lunch have been first come first serve for many years on the CZ.  In fact, I think only the Coast Starlight has lunch reservations of all the other LD trains.  Apparently, you rode in the summertime with three full sleepers instead of the two sleepers remainder of the year. so there were apparently one whole additional train car of passengers for the dining car to serve.  Unless a recent change, side salads have been available on all lunch sitting for me.   



#12 Dakota 400

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 04:16 PM

Blackwolf's comment about a Dining Car table being used for storage of supplies is one with which I totally agree.  I have wondered about that when I have traveled on Amtrak.  But, then, I think:  would there be room elsewhere within the car for what is located there?

 

On my EB journey, the LSA did seem to assist the SAs at times.  And, because the LSA was "in-training", the woman who seemed to be overseeing the Dining Car also helped out quite a lot on the MSP-CHI run at Lunch time when the train was full and the Dining Car was really busy.

 

Also, strongly agree with the concept of a "mystery traveler".  (I'll volunteer if such a program became available.)



#13 Lonestar648

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 01:23 PM

This summer on the CZ with three sold out sleepers and sold out coaches leaving every major stop, The LSA took reservations for Dinner and Lunch.  Also, had reservations for Lunch on the SL out of LA in the Summer, again a full train.

 

On PA announcements, it would be nice if there was a switch for Coach ONLY, Train wide, or Individual Car.   When the Conductors are asking over the PA over and over at each stop for passengers not to move over to take two seats, that gets old, but that is also the heavy summer travel.  Other times the announcements are just what needs to be like the Dining Car is open, the Next stop will be.





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